Teacher vaccines and when school staff will receive them will be a hot topic for debate. It was announced this week, that the NHS will be ready from December to roll out the new coronavirus vaccine, if it gets approved. With teachers interacting with pupils and parents on a daily basis, will school staff be towards the front of the queue to receive the vaccine?

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the independent report from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) where it has outlined interim advice on prioritisation groups:

1 Older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
2 All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
3 All those 75 years of age and over
4 All those 70 years of age and over
5 All those 65 years of age and over
6 High-risk adults under 65 years of age
7 Moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
8 All those 60 years of age and over
9 All those 55 years of age and over
10 All those 50 years of age and over
11 Rest of the population (priority to be determined)

When rolling out a mass vaccination programme there will be logistical issues deciding who will receive the vaccine first. The JCVI strongly agree that a simple age-based programme will likely result in faster delivery and better uptake in those at the highest risk.

It explains this interim ranking of priorities is a combination of clinical risk stratification and an age-based approach, which should optimise both targeting and deliverability. The JCVI’s interim guidance includes workers from the NHS, care homes and social care, but not teachers.

Teacher vaccines: will the majority of teachers have to wait?

The most recent School Workforce in England data shows that 2.6% of teachers are aged over 60, whereas a third of all teachers are aged between 30 and 39. This data does not include school staff in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and sixth form colleges. There are teaching staff in the categories outlined above in the table but where does that leave the majority of teachers in the ‘rest of the population’ category?

The Prime Minister was questioned at the press conference over what this would mean for his plan to keep schools open.

A Channel 4 reporter asked: “You read out the list, Professor Van Tam, on the [people who are] priorities. You said they were preliminary but given the Prime Minister’s determination to keep schools and universities open, is it not a glaring [thing] missing from that list? Should there be teachers on that list?”

Mr Johnson said: “On your question about which categories of people get it [the vaccine], we will be guided very much by the JCVI. You’ve got to look at where the doses can be most appropriately distributed to protect people to save lives and to drive down the R and everything flows from that.”

Teacher vaccines: will the JCVI prioritisation list be amended?

Will it be likely that there will be a prioritisation of key workers in sectors in the ‘rest of the population’ category with teachers towards the top of the list? Will there be a regional approach with teachers working in areas with a high amount of infections offered the vaccine first? With teachers, school staff and their families in other countries, such as the UAE, being offered a vaccine as a priority will the JCVI be forced to reconsider their interim guidance?

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